How Dickies’ work clothes went from old reliable to high fashion

Dickies, one of the most fundamental U.S. clothing brands, has evolved from office and factory stalwart to become first the uniform of skater-punks and now the envy of high fashion through a collaboration with designers Opening Ceremony.

Dickies’s chief archivist Ann Richardson, who started working in Williamson-Dickie Manufacturing’s merchandising department in 1970, remembers when Dickies’ primary focus was to make tough workwear that was designed not to draw attention to itself, while managing to embody American durability.

As the company’s longest-tenured employee, now approaching 50 years, Richardson has seen one of the most fundamental U.S. clothing brands evolve from office and factory stalwart to become first the uniform of skater-punks and now, the envy of high fashion.

These days, celebrities from Justin Bieber to A$AP Rocky are wearing a collection she shepherded to appear in a line from uber-trendy fashion designers Opening Ceremony and offered in some of the country’s trendiest shops.

The clothing line, released this past spring, includes over-shirts, twill pants and carpenter jeans dressed up in Opening Ceremony colors: pink, white and various fades. They retail for $150-$250, much higher than the average Dickies item. The pieces are a bit oversized and blend the aesthetics of Dickies — basic colors, thick cuts and zero frills — with the edgy chic of Opening Ceremony. They’ve also been successful: Opening Ceremony is the top retail partner in the Dickies 1922 line, both domestically and abroad.

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It’s been a long road to get here. Since its inception in 1922, Dickies quietly put its stamp on American culture through reliable, enduring clothing that was never really fashionable, but embodied a hard day’s work and a certain quality of American life.

Through the late 1980s and ’90s, that vibe began to shift to the skateboarding world, as riders found the durability of the Fort Worth, Texas-based brand’s pants essential to their sport. The pants were readily available, inexpensive and became something of a symbol of authenticity in that community.

As Dickies churned along, the company recognized it needed to reinvent itself. The American workforce’s needs were changing, and the skateboarding base was getting older, or moving on to other brands.

“[Both sets of customers] were no longer looking for…

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